TAMPA, Fla. — Global Eagle Entertainment, a provider of media services and satellite Wi-Fi to aircraft, boats and remote locations, has exited Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Around half a dozen of the satellite communication provider’s lenders took control of the company March 23, shedding about $488 million of its debt in the process.

The new owners have also invested around $218 million in the business to strengthen its balance sheet.

The Los Angeles-based company reported close to $1.1 billion in debt when it filed for bankruptcy protection in July 2020. It collapsed into bankruptcy after the pandemic significantly reduced airline and cruise line activities.

Global Eagle’s lighter debt load helps position the company to take advantage of recovering markets, amid hopes that vaccine deployments will soon ease COVID-19-related travel restrictions.

As part of a strengthened focus on mobility markets post-restructuring, the company has also sold its nongovernmental organization (NGO) and African fixed-site land business to Marlink, the maritime connectivity provider that has been diversifying its operations.

“Today marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter for Global Eagle,” Global Eagle CEO Joshua Marks said.

“Having successfully completed our sale and restructuring process, and now focused fully on mobility, the Company benefits from a stronger balance sheet, enhanced liquidity and blue-chip backing from new owners.

“We are well-positioned to invest in innovation, drive growth in our business, and continue supporting our customers as they adapt to evolving passenger and guest needs.”

The lenders that have taken control of Global Eagle include Apollo Global Management, Eaton Vance Management, Arbour Lane Capital Management, Mudrick Capital Management, Sound Point Capital Management, Carlyle Group and certain funds and accounts overseen by BlackRock Financial Management. 

Global Eagle was publicly traded on Nasdaq before filing for bankruptcy. The stock exchange delisted the company in August. 

Global Eagle is the second satellite communications provider to exit Chapter 11 this month, after Speedcast emerged March 11 following a deal that wiped out all of its nearly $700 million debt.

Gogo, a Global Eagle competitor serving the inflight connectivity (IFC) market, sold the commercial aviation part of its company last year to focus on business customers. Those assets were sold for $400 million to satellite fleet operator Intelsat, which remains under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The IFC sector faced heavy turbulence long before COVID-19 took its toll. The protracted grounding of Boeing 737 MAX planes disrupted demand, and analysts widely believe there are too many players in a market grappling with high antenna installation costs.

Satellite broadband startup OneWeb, which also recently emerged from Chapter 11, outlined plans March 19 to develop an IFC antenna. The satellite operator agreed a deal with Israel antenna maker SatixFy to build an IFC terminal that will work with OneWeb’s planned 650-satellite low Earth orbit constellation as well as geostationary (GEO) satellite systems operated by others.

OneWeb, which has 110 satellites in orbit, is slated to loft 36 more March 25 on an Arianespace-provided Soyuz launch from Vostochny Cosmodrome, Russia’s newest launch base. 

Jason Rainbow writes about satellite telecom, space finance and commercial markets for SpaceNews. He has spent more than a decade covering the global space industry as a business journalist. Previously, he was Group Editor-in-Chief for Finance Information...